Robert Schumann - Davidsbündlertänze opus 6 - Humoreske opus 20


Robert Schumann
Davidsbündlertänze opus 6
Humoreske opus 20

Jean-Marc Luisada
piano Yamaha CF 3

"Choc" du Monde de la Musique n°122
"Diapason d'Or" de Diapason-Harmonie n°349
"10" de Répertoire n°16 
"un événement exceptionnel" de Télérama n°2055


Schumann and Humor

There's a little word that turns up enigmatically here and there in Schumann's piano music : "Humor". The composer added it to certain pieces as notation (for example, to the 1837 Davidsbündlertänze opus 6, numbers 3, 12 and 16), used it as the title for one of his major cycles, Humoreske opus 20 (1839) and, lastly, referred to it in his letters when describing his emotional moods.

How should the word be translated? In French it could mean two things : "humour", or humour in the sense of wit; and "humeur", or humour in the sense of mood, to be in a good or bad humour, a melancholy humour, and so on. The two words on this recording go to the heart of the enigma. Both belong to Schumann's most creative period for piano music and both, although very different pieces, share that elusive presence - in - absence called Humor.

Actually, the word should be understood in both of its senses. It would be an error to assume that Humor as understood by Schumann means wit and wit only. If that were so, what should we make of the word used to notate a deeply tragic phrase, such as found in the twelfth Davidsbündlertänze? But just as grave an error would be to approach these works in a uniformly somber mood, and not to see the irony inherent in them. When Schumann wants really to indicate, in no uncertain terms, "the shadow of 'the other' invading my diminished, melancholy self", he writes, "mit Stimmung" with soul, or, as in the fourth section of Humoreske and in the Davidsbündlertänze, numbers 2 and 17, "Innig" or "introspective".

There is thus a sort of constant psychological dualism in Schumann's piano music, not just between "humour" and "mood", but within those two concepts between irony and contempt, and between elation and depression, respectively. This dualism is simultaneously stylistic, thematic and rhythmic. The form is binary, featuring balanced pairs (four main pieces in Humoreske, eighteen in the Davidsbündlertänze). In the latter, the introduction of the pieces, together or separately, by Eusebius and Florestan (who were already being used by Schumann separately or together to sign his music criticism in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik), are exemplary of the composer's recourse to this psychological and musical dualism. The signature (E, F) evokes both "humour" in the sense of the contrasting moods of the two rascals, and "wit" , with each of the two letters suggesting, respectively, a leaning (often masked) toward one of the two keys, E and F. And, lastly, the works themselves have a dualistic relationship to one another.

The Dances are in many ways connected to Carnaval, which ends with "David's Attack against the Philistines". Both works are dance scenes, and both contain thematic cross-references. The initial theme of the Davidsbündlertänze, based on a theme from Clara Schumann's Musikabenden, opus 6 and indicated on the score as "Clara's motif", is in itself a dual one. No sooner has it started out in G major than it modulates into its relative key of E minor. This motif of descending seconds informs the entire work, sometimes showing the melancholy face of Eusebius (n° 2), and sometimes the exuberance of Florestan (n° 3). It makes its final appearance (n° 18) as a sort of slow, introspective waltz one might hum quietly to oneself, written in the least "doleful" of keys (C major) but shrouded in melancholy dissonances, as though even Florestan were becoming nostalgic as the stroke of midnight draws near and the dancers fade into the night.

On a less obvious level, this dualism also involves the rhythm. The initial motif of the Dances, with its minor seconds and its 3/4 time, its dotted eighths and sixteenths, is like a mirror image of the "Chiarina" motif in Carnaval. With the difference that, somber in the latter and luminous in the Dances, it turns the Dances into a kind of unmasked ball. "The Davidsbündlertänze'', wrote Schumann, "are concealed behind Carnaval like faces behind a mask". "The former were composed", he continued, "in happiness, and the second, in sadness and pain".

Humour, whether understood as wit or emotion, must always remain elusive, as ambiguous as this rhythm which is both lively and still. Schumann made strange and contradictory statements about these Dances. To Clara : "When I composed these dances, I was swept away as in a dream, and thoughts of infinite happiness remain attached to them". But to Carl Montag he referred to them as "dances of death": An impossible contradiction? Not necessarily, since these are but "long, excentric meanderings, composed nevertheless in a single emotional spurt... generally a happy, upward one, except for the moments here and there when I touched bottom..." The dances are borne on a single line by a depressive seeking the manic flash that will obliterate for an instant the all too proximate idea of death. An apt image. Movement without a centre, movement borne forward, not despite but rather because of, the absence of a motive force.

Schumann has stated that Humoreske was composed in a single week "hardly leaving the piano for a moment, laughing and crying both at once". As with the Davidsbündlertänze, Schumann's statements concerning Humoreske are contradictory. "Exaltation and farce", on the one hand; but, on the other (one mood for one hand and one for the other, as is often the case in Humoreske as a matter of fact, a piece in which the discrepancy between the two hands is formed by the rhythm into a sort of grotesque majesty), wrote Schumann to Becker : "I hope you will like Humoreske. It is not very cheerful, and is perhaps the most depressed thing I have done". To Henriette Voigt, he admitted the piece contained more (dark) moodiness than humour. And yet, it would be absurd to tax the composer with being inconsistent, because his very, inconsistencies in regard to the work reflect its profound dualism. To Simonin de Sire, Schumann confided, "it is a shame there is no word in French to describe the two basic concept fundamental to the German sensibility, the exaltation of the dream (Schwärmerische) and Humor, a combination of Gemütlichkeit and humour".

When in the emotional state Schumann described, which is not so much a fluctuation from one mood to another, as perhaps the inner coincidence of the two, pain and laughter could be considered as equally valid means for expressing the same thing. Expressing what, exactly?

The work appears to be a disconnected succession of fragments. Over ten thematic ideas contrast with, interrupt, and cancel each other. The humour consists in refusing to come out with one clear-cut mood. Nothing is underscored and yet everything is executed with precision, an elusive precision that slips from the fingers just when its articulation seems most tightly grasped. These are the shifting reflections of a soul that is itself fragmented, of thoughts in pieces that like it that way, and of an attempt to piece them together again in obedience to the laws of classical musical development. Humoreske is a disjointed gallop over the sands of pure melody with spectral joy vying for supremacy with nostalgic stupor. To add to the confusion, the succeeding moods of the piece are themselves unstable, contradictory entities. What single word could be used to describe, for example, the mood of the initial melody? Is the Schumann of Humoreske tragic or playful? Can he be blamed if his fears are expressed with a burst of laughter and the cruellest agony inspires him to farce? The "humour" in this music is obviously the humeur of moods and of abrupt changes in mood, breaks and leaps working against what the listener expects, and what he has just heard. The striking aspect of this score, however, is not so much the mood changes themselves as their breadth and the speed with which they take place. Emotions are not tied to a guiding key that would set the affective tone. The piece doesn't modulate from one key to the next : it leaps. And, when the rhythm changes, the hiatus between is imbued with a trembling hint of catastrophe. There is no calm between motifs, no silence : only frenetic leaping.

And here, perhaps, lies the secret of Schumann's humour : the composer's ability to play with pain. In Humoreske, for example, all the components Freud identified in his analysis of "wit" are present. One of these components in Freud's Witz, the technique of expressing something through its opposite, is perfectly illustrated by the second of the three Codas, "Mit einigem Pomp", in which the solemn, heavy chords actually evoke a kind of tragic indecision. The techniques of wit, such as the juxtaposition of opposites or sense contained in nonsense are frequently employed. An instinctive feel for how wit works underlies the work, with its repetition and surprise contrasts (the sublime initial theme, for example, with its dreamy, weeping willow tone recapitulated towards the ends in disconnected, disarticulated form, with a strange rhythm).

A driving force that is volatile and unregulated. The rules of classical music, and even the romanticism of a Chopin, call for a fixed tone, passions that are steady, motifs that are clearly defined. But here, declamation is interrupted by babbling, the beat is disfigured by leering grotesquerie. What, then, is the true voice of the Humoreske?

The Innere Stimme, or inner voice Schumann often asked his interpreters to restore in their intonation of certain pieces, and that his entire oeuvre expresses in masked form, is not this, also, the essential voice of Humor, in every sense of the word? In the centre of the great Humoreske, in the movement marked Hastig, lies a kind of inaudible question (its measures written out on the score between the right and the left hands in the notation : D, C, B-flat, E-flat, D; but not to be played). Like the filigree on paper, the unexpressed secret is present, is essential, and yet is absent, merely alluded to in the reprises (notably in choral form), like a dream screen, unseen, but without which the dream itself would not be seen. The unspeakable is murmured in a whisper. A mute and secretly alluring motif about whose status the interpreter is unsure. He will be tempted to see in it the impossible synthesis of the right hand's jovial arpeggios and the left hand's melancholy repeated chords.

It would be an error, however, not to perceive under the motley fabric of rhythms and tone colours, at the heart of a music constantly on the brink of bursting into laughter or tears, or both, a definite unity.

The unity of a tonic key, for a start. Apart from a few rare modulations and translational chords, the piece remains firmly in the key, of B flat, and in its relative G minor. There is the same underlying tonal continuity behind the differences of tempo among the three pieces in the Davidsbündlertänze marked mit Humor : the third is in G major, the twelfth in E minor (the relative minor) and, lastly, with the sixteenth, marked mit gutem Humor, we return to G major. And, secondly and most importantly, thematic unity, though in a strange way. The pieces could be thought of as variations in search of a theme, a spare and uncomplicated theme buried under their extravagance like an ancient sorrow.

In Humoreske, rhythmic repeats and motifs within motifs recreate a unity constantly threatened by the disparities of tone, of style (noble, tragic, farcical ...) and of form (melodic, contrapuntal). But whatever the mood, the language spoken is always the same. We are given "pieces" taken from an absent whole whose inner unity they evoke with detachment and with humour. Humor here surely denotes the evocation of an emotional state through its opposite, the union of opposites, the innermost (mood), combined with the outermost (humour). Proper expression of the Humor of the Davidsbündlertänze or of Humoreske, whether in words or by piano interpretation, implies understanding the dualism inherent in the term. With each emotion, the opposite must come through. In each piece, the injunction Schumann placed at the head of the first edition of the Dances must be respected :

"In all' und jeder Zeit
Verknüpf sich Lust und Leid :
Bleibt fromm in Lust und seyd
Dem Leid mit Muth bereit."

("Pleasure and pain always go together. Take pleasure seriously, and pain with good heart"). It is important to surpass the logic of the banal opposition, to evoke, when Eusebius speaks, a hint of Florestan's sunny voice; and, when Florestan takes over, a touch of Eusebius's ashen tone. Then, and only then, can that remarkable oddity find fulfillment, which is the uniquely Schumannesque pain-in-joy, joyful pain.

And, although the Dances are more solidly constructed, and their intentions more successfully carried out, Humoreske contains a deeply moving exploration of the tension between the two senses of the word "Humor". Good humour is there in force, too much so not to carry with it, also, a tinge of despair; while melancholy darkens progressively into depression.

The introspection, the descent into the inner self, the poignant B minor theme, marked Innig, of the Davidsbündlertänze, n° 2, when repeated in the next-to-last episode, returns : Wie aus der Ferne ("as from afar"). A pain become so burdensome it sinks into the piano as into the grave. But then, in Humoreske, there is no longer even a murmur of this voice from the depths. It is written out (in the second section), but (literally and figuratively) between the lines; an unspoken phrase, a voice that has fallen silent. Almost as if there were no more words, no more notes, to express what it had to say.

How should mit Humor be translated? I would suggest : "with feeling". In every sense of the word. Not just "humour", not just "mood"; but breath of life, elusiveness, intelligence, intent, inspiration; life, meaning, grace, character, soul, demon, guardian angel, appearance of death, ghost.

Text after Michel Schneider original

Jean-Marc Luisada


"Luisada has the style to make every note indispensable and to uncover poetic motifs in the deepest recesses of the score."

Profoundly shaping his musical talents were two teachers: Marcel Ciampi and Denyse Riviere, with whom he studied first in Paris, then at the Yehudi Menuhin School in England. He then began his studies at the Paris National Conservatory of Music, where he studied piano with Dominique Merlet and chamber music with Genevieve Joy-Dutilleux. Winning first prize in both disciplines, he began postgraduate work in 1978, while working regularly with Nikita Magaloff, Paul Badura-Skoda, and Milosz Magin, who would remain his teachers after the completion of his degree.

In 1983, Jean-Marc Luisada gave a prize-winning performance at the Dino Ciani competition at La Scala in Milan. In 1985 he was a prize winner at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw.

His success in Warsaw opened the door to an international career. Concerts across the globe ensued. Invited to tour Japan after the competition, he now returns on an annual basis to a faithful public.

In conjunction with the rise of his touring career, Jean-Marc Luisada recorded first with Harmonic Classics and then with the Deutsche Grammophon label with whom he realized numerous recordings - some of the most noteworthy are the Chopin waltzes and Mazurkas and the Grieg and Schumann concerti with the London Symphony Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas.

Jean-Marc Luisada has performed under the direction of Charles Dutoit, Adam Fischer, Theodor Guschlbauer, Eliahu Inbal, Hiroyuki Iwaki, Marek Janowski, Mikko Franck, Emmanuel Krivine, Yehudi Menuhin, Michel Plasson, Cord Garben, Jean-Bernard Pommier, Yutaka Sado, Stanislaw Skorwacewski and Michael Tilson Thomas with the LSO, NHK, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, St Petersburg Orchestra, Sinfonia Varsovia, Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse.... He is also a devoted chamber musician and performs with the Fine Arts, Sine Nomine, Kocian, Modigliani and Talich quartets, as well as with Paul Meyer, Patrick Gallois, Gary Hoffman, Yuzuko Horigome, Philip Dukes, Josephine Knight, Laurent Korcia, Raphaël Oleg and Jean-Paul Fouchécourt.

piano Yamaha CF III



Davidsbündlertänze / Les Danses des Compagnons de David (1838)
18 pièces de caractère dédiées à Walter von Goethe

Vol. 1
Mit Humor
Sehr rasch
Nicht schnell

Vol. 2
Balladenmäßig. Sehr rasch
Mit Humor
Wild und lustig
Zart und singen
Mit gutem Humor
Wie aus der Ferne
Nicht schnell

Humoreske / Humoresque (1839)
dédiée à Madame Julie von Webenau, née Baroni-Cavalcabo

Einfach und Zart
Sehr lebhaft
Mit einigem Pomp
Zum Beschluss


"Choc" du Monde de la Musique n°122 :

Concert après concert, disque après disque (celui-ci est le second réalisé en France, mais il existe au Japon un extraordinaire enregistrement des quatre scherzos de Chopin), Jean-Marc Luisada affirme une personnalité musicale hors du commun.
Intuitions conquérantes, sens de la "mise en scène” des œuvres, éloquence des phrasés, maîtrise de l'agencement des plans sonores et des timbres, imagination sans cesse au pouvoir, on ne voit pas laquelle des qualités fondamentales du tempérament d'artiste ou de la sensibilité de musicien lui aurait échappé.
Les humeurs changeantes, de l'Humoresque, les états d'âme des Davidsbündlertänze conviennent particulièrement bien à un pianiste qui fuit la monotonie comme la peste, qui est animé d'un souci constant de chanter, qui, alternativement, griffe ou caresse son piano, bref, à qui cette musique va comme un gant. 
Le miracle, avec Luisada, c'est que l'on ressent l'émerveillement qu'il a à jouer. Dès lors, l'écoute de ces interprétations, parmi les plus purement schumanniennes réalisées depuis longtemps, vous entraîne de merveilles (n° 4, n° 11 des Davidsbündlertänze) en merveilles ("Innig" ou "Mit einiger Pomp" de l'Humoresque).
Si l'on regarde de près la discographie des deux œuvres (Dalberto, Richter ou Nat pour l'Humoresque, mais surtout pas un bien sinistre Ashkenazy; Arrau ou Cortot pour l'Opus 6), les versions dites de référence ne sont pas légions. En voici deux de taille.
Un exemple, encore. Ecoutez comment Luisada termine l'Humoresque. Schumann indique "Zum Beschluss", c'est-à-dire quelque chose comme "pour conclure", "pour en finir". C'est sur la pointe des pieds que Luisada prend congé, inventant des timbres, une registration inouïes dans les sept accords qui précèdent la péroraison. C'est à propos d'instants comme ceux-là qu'il faut parler d'état de grâce.
Prise de son superbe, textes d'accompagnement excellents, tout concourt à la réussite de ce très grand disque. - Gregory Thomas. 
Technique : 9/10

"Diapason d'Or" de Diapason-Harmonie n°349 :

Dans un couplage d'œuvres majeures, et qui ne pardonnent pas, probablement les grands débuts au disque les plus éclatants, les plus consolants qu'il ait été donné aux galériens de l'écoute que nous sommes de saluer depuis bien des années. Dans un monde du disque où la routine ne cède la place désormais (quand elle la cède) qu'à la désinvolture, où tout est fabriqué, factice, interchangeable, ou au (scandaleux) contraire faussement personnel et nouveau, quel bonheur, quel réconfort aussi, de pouvoir saluer un très jeune homme qui ose sa propre voix, qui déjà ne ressemble à aucune, mais après avoir pris le temps et le soin de la cultiver, de l'assurer; qui se présente dans les textes qui lui conviennent, le mettent en valeur, et stimulent en lui un plaisir de jouer, un plaisir d'être lui-même dont il nous fait aussitôt le don, et sans que jamais le texte même, Schumann, fasse les frais de cette rencontre!
La première chose qui touche, et aussitôt surprend, et constamment comble, chez Luisada, c'est la sonorité : mieux qu'une sonorité, un timbre, dont il joue, dans ces moins mélodiques et mélodieuses de toutes les œuvres possibles, comme s'il chantait par le moyen de son piano. Pourtant l'étagement des plans, la perspective, la conduite du récit sont maîtrisés de façon exemplaire, et il ne se laisse en rien entraîner aux caprices de la subjectivité, que de telles œuvres pourtant permettent et même, de fait, sollicitent parfois. L'imagination de la couleur investit la moindre inflexion des 
Davidsbündler, mais avec un tact, une justesse de touche, miraculeux. La mi-voix, osée plus d'une fois (la presque fin, hallucinante de beauté et de poésie), l'est toujours à bon escient. On se dit : il n'est pas possible qu'étant si personnel d'inflexion et de diction, et prenant si visiblement plaisir à la beauté de ce qu'il joue et du son qu'il produit, il ne nous le fasse pas payer tout à l'heure d'un rien de complaisance, ou de narcissisme... Eh bien, amis, nous en avons menti : de bout en bout le poète parle, et de bout en bout la plus délicieuse fantaisie se tempère de la plus valéryenne rigueur. Le plus grand miracle est encore sans doute que deux œuvres que tout incite à déconstruire et à laisser aller trouvent ici une tenue, une continuité, une inflexibilité de liaisons dans leur évidente liberté d'allure. Ainsi un si jeune homme fait place nette, d'un seul coup, dans la discographie schumannienne où, sauf le Gieseking enivré (de son, mais de rigueur) des David, désormais il ne reste que lui? - André Tubeuf.
Technique : 8/10. Son présent et agréablement réverbéré.

"10de Répertoire n°16 :

Jean-Marc Luisada, qui vient juste de passer la trentaine, est une tête déjà fort couronnée, notamment au fameux prix Chopin de Varsovie, voilà quatre ans. Mais considérant, à l'instar de Montaigne, "qu'une tête bien faite est préférable à une tête bien pleine", il ne nous a pas inondés de "disques de jeunesse" préférant se frotter aux autres en concert, prendre conseil des "maîtres" qui l'ont précédé, faire de la musique de chambre, bref : "vivre en musique" plutôt que "vivre sur la musique". D'où une discographie jusqu'ici réduite à deux Récitals Chopin.
Au reçu de ce nouveau disque j'ai sauté sur la grande 
Humoresque, Op. 20, avec, dans la tête, le souvenir des Nat, Engel, Kempff, Reine Gianoli, et - ô miracle! - je me suis, dès les premières secondes, retrouvé en pays de connaissance. Luisada peut d'emblée être comparé aux plus grands!
"Toute la semaine, j'ai composé, j'ai ri, j'ai pleuré tout ensemble. Tu en retrouveras les marques dans l'Humoresque." écrivait Schumann. Et il est vrai que ce point de rencontre des contraires est à la fois un grand poème lyrique déchiré et un lieu d'éclats animés et joyeux, de blessures intimes dans la solitude et d'affirmations musclées dans le soleil, une sorte de projection éclatée des combats les plus secrets d'une âme en porte-à-faux avec son destin, où la complexité de l'expression musicale n'a d'égale que celle du moi profond d'un homme singulièrement troublé.
Et voici que Jean-Marc Luisada, en magicien de la sonorité et en poète inspiré, fait surgir de son piano d'admirables nuances subtiles dans la tendresse mélancolique, des éclats taillés en diamant dans la véhémence lyrique, un dessin général d'une vérité intérieure si évidente que, comme après l'audition d'un Nat on se dit qu'une vérité vient de naître à nos oreilles : nous tenons un grand pianiste romantique, un Schumannien essentiel et un poète du son. Quand lui mettra-t-on sous les doigts un grand Bösendorfer?
Et les 
Davidsbündtenänze, dira-t-on? Leur charme et leurs sursauts exaltés sont portés par une beauté plastique sonore (des basses superbement sculptées!) qui en dit long sur l'art de Luisada et sur ses dons de medium. Je le répète : Il se place d'emblée parmi les plus grands; ici, auprès d'un Gieseking, par exemple. - Jean Hamon. 
Technique : 9/10. Ronde, chaude, fastueuse, juste réverbérée avec naturel, tout à fait en accord avec le climat des œuvres.

"un événement exceptionnelde Télérama n°2055 :

Dans le petit monde aseptisé des studios d'enregistrement, un jeune pianiste français met le feu aux poudres : avec Luisada, le vent souffle dans les branches de sassafras... On le savait "pas comme les autres", il persiste et signe, Jean-Marc Luisada est hors du commun. Le plaisir qu'il éprouve à se retrouver devant son clavier est parfaitement perceptible pour qui veut l'entendre. Ce n'est pas tous les jours qu'un tel bonheur partagé entre interprète et auditeurs se réalise et que le cercle magique se referme. Déjà, sa trempe, son cran, peut-on appeler ça comme ça : sa "maturité", font espérer qu'il ne sombrera jamais dans la grisailleuse monotonie des "tapeurs de touches" qui sont légion et qui nous assomment d'ennui. Avec Luisada, on ne risque pas de trouver le temps long, le climat émollient, la soumission aux préjugés, l'asservissement aux lois du marché. Ce conquérant n'a pas pour autant la tête dans les nuages et ne joue pas les bravaches : il sait que l'imagination ne prend essentiellement son essor qu'à l'intérieur d'un cadre sévèrement maîtrisé. Ce mystique a les pieds sur terre. Il signe là un disque schumannien jusqu'à la moelle, capricieux sans être coquet, nostalgique sans que le rimmel fonde. Mieux que du grand art : une âme forte. L'apanage des rares élus. Luisada, avec cet enregistrement est, désormais, dans le saint des saints : au sein de la Nature. - Paul Meunier. 
Technique : 5 T.
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